…and for God’s sake don’t be late!

30 Jul

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Today was our day to explore the Cotswolds.  I think today was by far one of the most enjoyable days we’ve had (if the number of pictures I took is any indication) (almost 300, but I won’t share them all here)  We enjoyed it immensely!  We started out early because we wanted to have as much time as possible exploring the Cotswold region.  We left our hotel at 6:15 am and headed to the train station to catch an early train.  Our hotel didn’t serve breakfast until 7:00 am on weekends, so we just grabbed a bagel and coffee at the train station and ate it while we were waiting to board the train.  The trip took about 1 1/2 hours, but the scenery was worth the ride.  We had planned to see the Northern part of the Cotswolds, because we’d researched it enough to know that this area is particularly scenic.

The Cotswolds are dotted with little towns with funny names, and laced together by a series of public paths.  The people of this region enjoy their walks, and it was a treat for us as well.  They take great pride in having a very easy to navigate series of trails.  Each little town has a visitor information booth with maps and suggestions on the best trails, depending on your physical stamina and the time you have.

One of the reasons that this area has maintained its small village charm is because it’s not readily accessible by public transportation.  Only one of the towns has a rail station, and that is Morton-on-the-Marsh (I told you the names were funny)  We had to do a lot of calculating of train and bus schedules to make sure we knew exactly when we needed to head back in order to catch the train back into London.  We also had to decide which bus would take us to the little towns we wanted to see.   (There’s a funny story about that, but more on that later)

From Morton-on-the-Marsh, we would catch a bus to Stow-in-wold.  We arrived at Morton-on-the-Marsh at about 8:45 and walked to the town from the train station (since it wasn’t time for the bus to arrive yet).  The information center hadn’t opened yet, so we did some exploring of the shops and bought a box of blueberries from a little grocery/butcher shop to snack on while we waited.  Once the information center opened, we bought a trail map and headed  back to the bus stop.

The bus pulled in right on time and we bought a day-pass from the driver (just 6 pounds) that would give us all day access in case we wanted to explore a larger part of the region by bus.  The driver explained to us that this was our best value since we’d require a trip back to the train station and the separate fares would add up to more than 6 pounds anyway.  The bus dropped us off at Stow-on-the- Wold right in the center of town beside the big old church.  It was completely surrounded by a town square with all kinds of little shops.  There were lots of little places to eat, to have tea, little shops of all sorts, it was just beautiful!  We consulted the map and got our bearings and were ready to start on our way.  As we left the the town square, we passed a bakery/cheese shop and couldn’t resist going in to buy a baguette and a chunk of cheese to take with us on our hike.  The featured cheese of the week (they made their own) was a Gloucestershire double cheddar.  We told the clerk we’d like a piece of it, and she sat the cheese wheel up on a board and cut a nice wedge off of it with a wire.  We also purchased a fruit scone and a couple of bottles of water.

The trail led us on a route out of town, alongside a creek, through fields of wildflowers, cows, sheep, and horses.  It wound around houses and through people’s back yards and farms, over little stone bridges and through gates.  The trail was very well marked and we also had a commentary about where to turn or which gate to walk through.  It was absolutely beautiful and we couldn’t believe our eyes every time we’d rounded another corner.  This trail was about 4 miles long.  The path of the trail took us from the town of Stow-on-the-Wold to the little village of Bourton-on-the-Water.  These are really the names of these towns, I’m not making this up!

We were ready for lunch after this walk, and found a cute little place called the Rose Tree Restuarant. right on the banks of the little Eye River that runs through the center of town.  The Rotary Club was sponsoring a rubber duckie race so there were many people in the downtown area, enjoying the beautiful weather and the duckie races.  The river is very clean and shallow and children were wading and splashing and having a great time.

Jimmy went for fish and chips again, and I had a shrimp, crab, and avocado salad.  I had hot tea with mine and have really gotten into hot tea.  Of course it’s cool enough here to drink it every day.  Not so much back home!

We decided to visit the information center in this little town and pick another trail to hike after lunch.  We did another 4 mile walk that consisted of a loop beginning and ending in the town center right where we had our lunch.  This trail began at Bourton-on-the-Water to Upper Slaughter and returned to Bourton through Lower Slaughter.  This trail was just as beautiful and picturesque as the one we’d done before lunch.  We stopped at the old mill beside the river near the end and got an ice cream cone.  The shop owners were very nice and the ice cream was delicious.  They made it there and we really enjoyed it after our long walk.  I chose butter crunch ice cream  and Jimmy picked a flavor that neither of us had ever heard of.  It was called brown bread.  The owner told us that we needed to try it if we’d never had it before.  It tasted just like a grainy bread crumbled up into ice cream and re-frozen.  It sounds terrible but it was actually very good.

We finished our walk and got back to where we’d started in the town center and once again consulted the bus stop timetable to make sure we were in the right location for the bus we needed.  There were only two possibilities on busses so we knew we had a 50% chance of getting the right one when we needed it.  We waited just a few minutes, and before long the bus came.  It was the same one that we had ridden from the train station earlier in the day.  The bus driver remembered us and said we could catch the bus on the opposite side of the street, she still had one more route to run, but that we’d be able to get on when it came back through in about 20 minutes.  We were all done with what we’d planned to do in that little town, and since we’d bought the all day bus pass and had to wait anyway, we thought we’d just go ahead and hop on the bus and ride with her to the next stop, being able to see more of the region while we waited.  We asked her if that would be okay, and she said sure, if you want to do that, just hop on.

She wove in and out of the little streets and headed to the next town, where she picked up a few folks and a few got off.  After about 20 minutes or so of this, Jimmy said, “I just had a thought, she is not the only bus driver in this town”.  I didn’t know exactly what his point was, but I agreed that he was probably right, I didn’t really see where he was going with this line of thinking, but oh well. . . (I haven’t been married for 30 years without learning a thing or two!)  Then he said,” We are headed in the opposite direction of where we need to be, she thinks we just want to ride and we are going to miss the bus for our train. She must have meant that we’d be catching a different bus in 20 minutes to take us back to the train station and we thought she was talking about the bus she was driving!”  I got a sick feeling in my stomach at that point, but I still thought there was a chance that at any moment, she’d turn down a street and we’d see that we were back to where we needed to be.  Instead, she pulled into a little town we didn’t recognize, everybody got off and she came back to where we were sitting and said okay folks, this is the end of this line.  I think I sat there for a second with my mouth open and Jimmy said, “well is there a bus we can catch back to the train station where you picked us up this morning?”  She said, “You want to go back there?”  We both said, yes and explained how we’d thought we were riding with her on a short trip and then heading back to the station.  It was all a misunderstanding.  She thought we were staying somewhere in the area and wanted to do some more sight-seeing on our all day bus ticket, we thought we were just taking the scenic route to the train station.  She felt really bad for us and said well you can tell everyone that a crazy Irish woman took you on a wild ride while you were here.

She told us that the bus we were on would have to park where it was for about 40 minutes, but would leave from there and head back through all the little towns back to the train station as its last stop.  She said if all went well, we should make it in time to catch the train.  We figured we’d only have about 5 minutes to get to the train platform and catch the train or we’d have to wait an hour and a half for the next train.  She said, go get you some hot tea to enjoy, then come back to the bus stop over there (she pointed to show us exactly where we needed to stand) and for God’s sake don’t be late!  Jimmy looked down at his watch as if to synchronize it, and said, Okay! and hopped off the bus with a purposeful stride toward the tea shop. I was a little slower, still trying to process all that had just happened, and as I exited the bus, she said to me, “Is your husband in the military?”  I said no ma’am, I’m not sure why she asked that, but I thought it was funny.

So we dutifully walked down the street and found a little tea shop.  I ordered hot tea again and Jimmy ordered a cappucino.  The server brought out our drinks, and we sat at a table by the window and enjoyed our extended stay in the area.  Jimmy’s cappucino came with a piece of biscotti and I decided I’d ask if I could get an order to enjoy with my hot tea.  I went back up to the counter and asked if I could please have an order of biscotti.  The man just looked at me and asked me to repeat.  I said, could I please have an order of biscotti?  He said, you’ll have to explain that ma’am, I’ve never heard that word before.  I said, you know, the crunchy little cookie you gave my husband with his coffee?  He said, Oh, you mean a biscuit!  Sure! and he reached into a jar and pulled out a “biscuit” and handed it to me.

We finished our drinks and walked back to the bus stop and stood exactly where the driver had instructed us to stand.  We were there plenty early, just to be sure.  At the time she indicated, she rolled up and we stepped forward.  She smiled and I said, ” here we are, your favorite passengers!”  I guess she’d been thinking about our predicament and asked us again what time our train would leave.  We told her, and she said, that’ll be close but I think we can do it.  We started on our way and there were only one or two other passengers on the bus besides us.  When the last one exited, she began to talk to us more, getting to know us.  We told her about our trip and about our anniversary.  She had been married herself for 38 years and her husband was in the R.A.F.  They lived on an R.A.F. base.  She drove this bus from 6:30 am-7:30 pm 6 days a week.  She said to Jimmy, “so if you aren’t in the military, what do you do?”  Jimmy explained and she told us more about herself and her family.  (From Northern Ireland, been in England for 30 years, two daughters, three grandchildren.)

Once she let off the last passenger besides us, I had no doubt we’d make it on time.  She literally whizzed through the rest of her stops, paused for half a second and would giggle and say, “well, no one here to catch the bus, let’s go”, then she would floor-board it,  taking off like a flash.  She was really tickled with the whole thing.  We were on her last route of the day and her last stop would be our train station so she made it in record time!!  When we pulled into the train station, Jimmy said, “I think we have about 15 minutes to spare, thank you so much for getting us here.  I’m sure we’ll be able to catch our train!”  She said, “I’m just glad there were no cops around!”  We both thanked her profusely and left with another great memory of our time in England.

We made the train just fine, and had a nice trip back to London.  By the time we switched from the train to the tube and made it over to our little “neighborhood” where our hotel is located, it was 10:00 pm, so we went to Prezzo to eat our dinner.  We knew they served until 11:00 pm.  I had the salad I had before (with the goat cheese, artichoke hearts, etc.) and Jimmy had their pizza for which they are famous.  Got to get to bed!  It’s 1:50 am here.  Love you all,

Mom/Deb

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2 Responses to “…and for God’s sake don’t be late!”

  1. Jim Grayson July 30, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    I love the thought of all the trails leading to the different little towns and such. Oh, how I wish Sharon and I could walk those trails but alas, even if we had the money, we don’t have me, so to speak. I do well to get around in the house nowadays, but at least I can still do that, thank the Lord!
    You guys are having a really wonderful trip. I’ve learned much of England and such since you guys took off. Carry on, dear friends…carry on! :o)
    I love you all,
    Jim Grayson
    PS- Could Jimmy do any fishing while he’s there? If so, he should check it out. :o)

  2. Sarah July 30, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    What Charming locals! I have to visit the Cotswolds next time I’m in town…
    You guys are making such wonderful memories! I hope you will remain in the States at least for the holidays, and your children’s birthdays and such….

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